Practice and knowledge there and here. A cultural analysis of comparison as a narrative strategy among medical professionals returning from work abroad
Katarzyna Wolanik Boström (Umeå University)
Magnus Öhlander (Stockholm University)
Paper short abstract:
This paper analyze how comparison is used by medical professionals in their narratives about international mobility and especially about their return to Sweden. Based on 46 in-depth interviews we discuss how comparison is used as a narrative strategy when negotiating "returners' cultural jet-lag".
Paper long abstract:
The aim of this paper is to analyze how comparison is used by medical professionals in their narratives about international mobility and especially about their return to Sweden. We discuss how the interviewees use comparison as narrative strategy when describing what we call "returners' cultural jet-lag" after moving back from abroad (Öhlander, Wolanik Boström & Pettersson, submitted). The returners' cultural jetlag is a process of temporary estrangement and gradual, reflexive re-adjustment, generating new insights and knowledge. It is a milder form of temporary cultural incomprehension, which nevertheless enables a person to regard things from new perspectives and enhances a critical reflection about the order of things "there" and "at home" - with comparison as a main narrative strategy. When trying to adjust upon returning to Sweden after months or years abroad, the professionals use comparison as an everyday social and cultural practice. In our data, the interviewees compare their professional experiences, but moreover, everyday life, attitudes towards gender and equality and societal structures. Our point of departure are 46 in-depth interviews from three cases of mobile medical professionals; physicians working in international aid organizations in the Global South, specialized physicians involved in both research and clinical practice going abroad to other Western clinics/research centres, and medical molecular biologists. With these cases, we bring together social and cultural comparisons from work life, leisure, and migration. We examine the comparative practices in everyday life and the role of comparison in making sense of different modes and forms of mobility and transformations.
Comparison as social and cultural practice